Friday, December 09, 2005

Seed of the Woman

On Lesser of Two Weevils Talmida posted this week about Genesis 3:15: who is crushing the snake?

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman,
and between thy seed and her seed;
it shall bruise thy head,
and thou shalt bruise his heel. (KJV)

She then shows how the Douay-Rheims Bible perpetuates an interpretation of the original which was made with the translation of the text into Latin.

I will put enmities between thee and the woman,
and thy seed and her seed:
she shall crush thy head,
and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel. (D-R)


Whoa! There's a twist! This is one of the Vulgate's little changes to Sacred Scripture that shows up in the Douay-Rheims. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia online,

The translation "she" of the Vulgate is interpretative; it originated after the fourth century, and cannot be defended critically.

In the comment section Talmida refered to a post of Peter's on the B-Hebrew list last year, where he says,

This depends what you mean by "seed". The Hebrew word is zera`, and it has several senses in English, the following according to BDB: ...

So the sense of zera` here must be sense 4, offspring or descendant. And there is no reason why sense 4 should be restricted to the descendants of a male. There is in fact at least one other place where zera` in this sense is used of a woman, and in a case where virgin birth is certainly not intended: Genesis 19:32, 34.

However, I wish to bring another ingredient into the mix. Arthur Custance, the author of the Doorway Papers wrote "The Seed of the Woman". It has recently been reprinted and is available online here.

He summarizes his chapter The Seed Of The Woman And The Seed Of The Man here on page 18,

In short, to summarize a long and complex chapter, it may be said that the seed of the woman is the only remnant that has retained the original immortality possessed by our first parents. By contrast, the seed of man and the body cells of both the man and the woman have been mortalized. Furthermore, even the seed of the woman is fatally poisoned by fusion with the male seed.

However, this poison affects only that portion of the woman's seed which will develop into body cells: the remainder of her seed continues to form the immortal stream of germ plasm. Only if an ovum from this germ plasm reservoir can be fertilized by some means not natural to man can a body with the original endowment of potential immortality be recovered again.

Custance has written an entire book on this topic. It is a real mind-bender. My mother was a great fan of Arthur Custance. I haven't read this book in its entirety and somehow I don't think I ever will; but I do remember that it was considered and apparently still is considered by some a magnus opus.


crystal said...

I looked up what the bible version I use has (the new american bible - catholic ) ...

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel."

Arthur Custance sounds like an interesting guy :-)

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Hi Crystal,

Custance was a graduate of the U. of Toronto and his Doorway Papers were familiar to me when I attended the Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship there in 1980.

It is nice to find a book on men and women and redemption that is not polemical about sex roles.